Ferrari's Charles Leclerc Dominates First Australian F1 Grand Prix In Three Years

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And he picked up his first F1 Grand Slam along the way.

The Australian Grand Prix did not play out as we expected. We predicted the qualifying results (correctly) and an epic battle between Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen, but the latter was not to be. For the second time in three races, the reigning F1 world champion retired from a race due to engine problems.

Perhaps Red Bull's idea to move engine production in-house wasn't such a great idea. (And yes, we know the engines still come from Japan, but the development is done in-house in the UK).

We're three races down with 20 still to go, but it's quite clear that Ferrari has a dominant lead over the rest of the pack. The pressure is on, but the championship is far from over. But as the confetti settles after the Melbourne festivities, there are some important takeaways from the Australian F1 Grand Prix.

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Leclerc Is World Champ Material

There are a lot of "what if" scenarios with regards to this race, but there's one thing you can't deny. Charles Leclerc delivered a drive F1 legends would be proud of.

Leclerc not only won the race. He took home his first F1 Grand Slam in the process. Leclerc put his car on pole in qualifying, took that car to victory, and posted the fastest lap. What's more, he led every single lap on his way to victory, securing Ferrari's first Grand Slam since Fernando Alonso achieved the same feat in Singapore in 2010. The fans even awarded him Driver of the Day. That as dominant as victories get. We don't mean to jinx him, but since 2011, any driver who has secured a Grand Slam has gone on to win the championship that year.

The young driver now has a commanding lead in the driver's championship. Any other driver on the grid would need two victories just to catch up, and that's only if Leclerc doesn't score as well.

We don't see that happening soon, given the sheer pace and reliability of the Ferraris.

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Red Bull and Max In Trouble

Max Verstappen is currently Charles' only real competition, but his team seems unable to build him a reliable car.

On lap 39 of 58, the Red Bull #1 gave in. This time the trouble seemed more serious, as the car actually caught fire. Much like Gasly's car during the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Mercifully, Sergio Perez's car soldiered on without problems, but the gap between him and Leclerc showed just how much faster the Ferraris are. Perez finished in second place, a little more than 20 seconds behind Leclerc. That's a lifetime in F1.

Red Bull is burning through engines quite quickly. Later on in the season, this will lead to grid penalties, which is the last thing the reigning world champ needs. He summarised it quite aptly, saying at this stage, they just need to finish races, they aren't even in the title chase.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Second Driver's Dominate

In F1 teams, there is a hierarchy. We all know this. Verstappen and Hamilton are the number one drivers, and Perez and Russell are there to back them up.

So why are the supporting acts currently in the lead? Russell is currently second in the championship on 37 points - despite lacking a competitive car and Sergio Perez is fourth on 30 points. Hamilton and Verstappen are fifth and sixth, respectively. Hamilton has scored consistently, giving him 28 points. Max has one win and two DNFs, giving him 25 points.

At what point does the hierarchy change? Perez has proven himself worthy of a Red Bull seat, and Mercedes' new boy is easily outperforming the seven-time world champ in the same car. One has to wonder if both these teams can get their stuff together later in the season, will they employ team orders to favor the #1 drivers? Or will they see that the secondary drivers have delivered the goods and deserve the chance to fight their way to the top?

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool Daimler AG Daimler AG

McLaren Slowly Clawing Back

If it weren't for Aston Martin, whose fastest car on the grid this weekend was the Aston Martin Vantage safety car, McLaren would be the joke of the season. Still, big companies are showing a lot of interest in partnering with the papaya team.

McLaren's performance in Australia proved that the team is slowly making the car better. From not really featuring in the first two races, Lando Norris managed to bag fifth place followed by his teammate, Daniel Ricciardo in sixth in his home race. It seems Lando is worth that $80 million investment after all. In the early stages of the race, it even seemed that McLaren might be able to give Mercedes a solid challenge.

McLaren is currently fourth in the constructor's championship, matching their performance from last year. However, they'll need to maintain this upward trend if 2022 is going to be anything to write home about.

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What About The Other Teams

Interestingly, Aston Martin remains the only team without points, and Australia was a race the British team would soon like to forget. After crashes and mechanical failures in practice and qualifying, Sebastian Vettel crashed out of the Grand Prix, while Lance Stroll picked up penalties for dangerous driving. Even Williams has one point, defying the odds with Alex Albon completing the full race on a single set of tires, pitting at the last moment to avoid a penalty and managing to pick up 10th.

Haas, unfortunately, struggled to maintain momentum this weekend, with both drivers finishing outside the points. Still, there was good news as Mick Schumacher seemed to find a groove, finishing ahead of Kevin Magnussen for the first time this season.

Williams F1 Haas F1 Team Alpine Alpine

Alpine, who put in a phenomenal showing in Saudi Arabia, was looking strong down under. In fact, had it not been for a hydraulic failure, Fernando Alonso looked like he was about to snatch pole position in the dying moments of Q3 when he ended up in the barriers on an absolute flyer of a lap. He said the car was feeling great early in the race too, and it was only a safety car that affected the team's strategy and ultimately undid Alonso's effort.

Alfa Romeo were strong mid-field contenders this race, with Valtteri Bottas finishing 9th while season rookie, Zhou Guanyu, finished just outside the points in 11th.

While Leclerc may have given Ferrari a victory, the day was a mess for his teammate Carlos Sainz. After starting the race in 9th due to a red flag in qualifying erasing his flying lap, he ended up going in too deep on an overtake and beached his car in a gravel trap, ending his race prematurely.

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What Next?

The next race is Imola, or the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari as it's known locally.

This gives Ferrari the home team advantage, and it won't want to mess that up. Ferrari will do everything in its power for a one-two victory, which means Carlos Sainz will have to up his game.

Red Bull, once again, has to go back to the drawing board. It obviously has severe engine problems, and even without them, the team is still off Ferrari's pace. Mercedes still needs to find some pace, though consistent performances from both its driver mean it's currently second place in the constructor's championship. But second isn't good enough if you've been the best for the last eight years.

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